Experts comments CACDS - Southern Caucasus

Stepan Safaryan: "The conflict in Nagorno Karabakh for Russia is a way of influencing the sides of the confrontation"

"CIAKR-South Caucasus" presents an interview with the head of the Armenian Institute of International Relations and Security, political scientist Stepan Safaryan.

Stepan Safaryan

Your assessment of the process of resolving the Karabakh conflict.

At the moment, nothing happens. There is an impression that a crisis has started in the negotiations. At the Munich Security Conference in February, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and President Ilham Aliyev were expected to meet. However, it was not able to organize. Both leaders were absent. Foreign ministers were present, but there was no meeting between them either. After an informal meeting, Pashinyan-Aliyev, in the fields of the forum in Davos, sees a certain crisis in the talks.

In particular, Nikol Pashinyan opened the quotation marks, noting that Davos was discussing the history of negotiations. In simple words, they discussed how the settlement options and their consequences were. What specific problems were highlighted at the meeting is difficult to say, but obviously one thing. The Armenian prime minister after Davos stated that he was not authorized to speak on behalf of Artsakh. Armenia reminded that she had no mandate to discuss the future of NKR and her status. Consequently, expecting Stepanakert to return to the negotiating table, as was historically. And Pashinyan's statement on the discussion of the history of the negotiations was made in this context - Artsakh should become a full-fledged party to the conflict. This was followed by Azerbaijan's statement that territorial integrity can not be the subject of trades. This is a clear refusal of a compromise settlement. In response, the head of the National Security Council of Armenia, Arthur Vanetyan, said that there can be no talk about the return of the territories.

We have a tightening of positions. It seems that the parties are trying to drive each other into horror. But to say that the current deadlock will unleash Azerbaijan's arms for a forceful solution to the conflict, I can not see it. Although it can not be ruled out that Azerbaijan, incorrect, counts on the April version of 2016 year. This time, unpunished attacks will not be left. In April 2016 year Azerbaijan realized that blitzkrieg could not significantly change the boundaries of the contact line. Several busy positions did not solve the strategic task. And for a long war he will not have enough resources.

And maybe sabotage attacks, attempts to escalate?

They will not become a solution to the question. A large-scale war will not be in favor of Baku, given its destructive nature for both sides. Even if he imagines that he will win in the war, then the destruction that she brings will be called a victory would be a sin.

Local war is possible. However, unlike April 2016 year, Azerbaijan is deprived of the factor of surprise. And for the sake of several positions, it is already risky to start a local war from the beginning. The return to a sabotage war means a rejection of the Dushanbe agreement and an excuse for criticism. Possibilities of sabotage after the April war are limited in the context of technical re-equipment of NKR positions. A factor in suddenness is required. And let's not forget that one such attempt, and the Vienna agreements will immediately return to the negotiating table. Azerbaijan is now in a dead end because both scenarios are unpredictable. In reality, there is no alternative but to agree to Stepanakert's participation in the talks. By force, the conflict can not be solved.

How high are the chances of NKR's return to the negotiating table?

Paradoxically, tactical success of Azerbaijan in 2016 year on a strategic level has led to a weakening of Baku's positions, worsening the impasse of its situation. The April war brought Armenia closer to the red lines (from which it was quite far ahead of 2016), leaving no room for any decisions based on reciprocal concessions.

The latest military purchases of Armenia show intentions to adhere not only to the defensive but also to the offensive doctrine. The whole strategy of Azerbaijan was to bow the Armenian side to concessions, imposing a grueling war. But it has a reverse effect. In this context, the Dushanbe Agreements became the lobby of the Armenian side - not to recall the Vienna Agreements, while showing readiness for negotiations. Azerbaijan will have to agree to Stepanakert's participation in the talks. Especially since there is no desire to oppose the OSCE Minsk Group. Mediators can admit to impotence to contribute to this, but to object - they have no reason to do so.

The return of Nagorno-Karabakh is a necessity for the resumption of the negotiation process?

Yes, they want to or not in Baku. By the way, this can become a lifeblood for President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, coming out of the dead ends that he created for himself.

How do you see the prospect of conflict resolution?

At the moment, such a perspective is not seen. Azerbaijan systematically reduces it to nothing. The Karabakh conflict is global, and the interests of the superpowers are interspersed with it. Given the tension in Russia's relations with the US and Europe, it is hard to imagine that they may have the same positions. Plus, neighboring countries, in particular Iran, whose interests can not be ignored.

At the moment, the challenge for all is to manage the risks of the resumption of the war. Because it is not profitable, in particular, the West. War is also not profitable for Russia. A war can be a turning point for her, endangering her relationship with the West, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and even with Armenia.

What interests are the pursuit of regional players, above all, Russia as the chief arbitrator?

For Russia, the conflict is a way of influencing the parties to the conflict. She has limited resources, unlike the West. Russia does not have that set of tools that the West has - finances, values, promises of integration ... The only lever of pressure in her hands is the conflict itself. Since 2008 year, Russia's strategy was to secure the status quo of the conflict in which it could dominate. After the April War of the 2016 of the year, its aspiration to preserve the status quo through its military presence was noticeable.

For the West, the region has a strategic significance, it is a crossroads on routes to Central Asia and the Middle East. The war in a few minutes will put a cross on multimillion-dollar infrastructure programs. The destabilization is not beneficial to the West. The West is interested in the settlement, because it will weaken the influence of Russia in the region, if not to say the loss of influence at all. But Russia is not a weak player to squeeze it out of the region, providing the option of a settlement not in the interests of the Kremlin. In this context, the only way out is to maintain the status quo. Statements by both John Bolton and Gregory Karasin say that the mediators have a consensus to maintain the status quo.

Are there any real prerequisites for the well-known "peoples' preparation for peace"? What, in your opinion, steps have been taken?

The statements of the international community about the need to prepare peoples for peace have provoked a society that hears public statements of Azerbaijan, and understands that in such circumstances the decision will be unilateral in the form of territorial concessions. It is akin to self-capitulation. However, given all that we have been talking about, it must be understood that this appeal is not for the short term. Because societies are very far from each other, and the deadlock of Karabakh is a dead end today not only for leaders. Dead end is also in the minds of societies. And the key task is to bring societies out of this impasse. Because it is society that must approve a particular settlement option. It makes sense to expect it in the long run.

Interviewed Tigran Petrosyan, specially for CIACR-South Caucasus